PORTLAND — In what is likely a winner-take-all race, state Rep. Rachel Talbot Ross faces a challenge in the June 12 Democratic primary in House District 40 from former Rep. Herb Adams.
There are no candidates in the Republican primary, meaning none can run in the Nov. 6 general election in the district largely comprised of the Bayside and Parkside neighborhoods. Candidates running without a party affiliation have until June 1 to submit nomination papers with the secretary of state’s office.
Talbot Ross defeated Adams and Anna Kellar in the 2016 Democratic primary for the seat.
Talbot Ross, 57, of Washburn Avenue, is completing her first two-year term, and said she is ready to build on what she has achieved.
Talbot Ross also leads the Portland chapter of the NAACP and is the former director of the city office of Equal Opportunity and Multicultural Affairs.
“I went (to Augusta) knowing I was going to work on criminal justice reforms,” she said as she discussed her key policy areas.
Awaiting final action by the Legislature are bills to provide eight hours of “mental health first aid” training for corrections staff and to give tax credits to employers hiring people recently released from incarceration or who have completed treatment for substance abuse disorders.
Also awaiting final action is a bill to study “housing insecurity” faced by long-time homeowners who cannot afford any other place to live. In addition, another bill would ban state agencies from asking applicants about prior felony convictions “until after the applicant has been found to be otherwise qualified for the license, registration or permit.”
When the 129th Legislature begins, Talbot Ross said she will renew her fight to have other legislation passed, including the “Homeless Bill of Rights” to address discrimination and stigmas faced by the homeless community.
Talbot Ross said she also intends to strengthen diversion programs and provide better housing and mental health services as an alternative to incarceration.
“(It) will provide $2 million for grants for a myriad of human services to do much more harm reduction,” she said. “We will double the resources and take this beyond the pilot programs.”
She will also renew the fight for a bill she and House Speaker Sara Gideon, D-Freeport, cosponsored to strengthen educational and training opportunities for families using available federal funds.
Talbot Ross said she will also work to enact the will of the voters as seen in referendum questions about education funding and minimum wage increases. As a supporter of ranked choice voting, Talbot Ross said its use will show the upcoming election results to be the true will of state voters.
She has not endorsed any of the seven Democrats seeking their party’s nomination for governor, and said she welcomes a change in tenor in how the branches of state government work together.
“I have seen strong bipartisan support in many ways; we need to be able to leverage that and work with next administration for common good,” Talbot Ross said. “We would see real positive change for the state.”
A historian who teaches at Southern Maine Community College, Adams, 63, of State Street, also served the district for a total of 16 years through 2010, with service interrupted by state term limits laws.
“There will be a lot of broken glass to sweep up, miles of fences to be mended,” Adams said about the next legislative session. “If Maine is to move in a positive direction in the first quarter of the 21st century, we better get moving.”
Adams has endorsed Attorney General Janet Mills’ candidacy for governor.
Serving a district that is the most densely populated in the state, with a large demographic mix and constant voter turnover, Adams said faith in how government benefits its citizens is essential.
“I’ve never understood the philosophy of government sucks, make me part of it,” he said.
Adams said revising the state education funding formula to include factors such as the number of students getting free or reduced lunches, learning English as a second language and the amount of tax-exempt property in the school district are ways to ensure Portland and other communities gain a greater share of the available funding.
To continue bolstering education, Adams would also like to expand the Opportunity Maine Law he sponsored so tuition at two-year post-graduate schools would be forgiven if students commit to community service and work in Maine for one or two years.
Adams said he would also consider creating a local tax option as a way for municipalities to raise revenue, but the taxes would be at the county as opposed to local level, with revenue sharing written in.
As social services are strained in the Bayside area, Adams said he would like an affordable housing bond passed and administered by the Maine State Housing Authority and a greater regional approach to delivering housing and needed services.
“Portland is a kind and caring place, but we cannot be blind … about the burden on the city,” he said.
Adams and others are now petitioning the state Public Utilities Commission to prevent Central Maine Power Co. from excessively raising its rates to pay for damages from the Oct. 31, 2017, storm.
The effort is part of his wider outlook to protect and enhance the lives of working people throughout the state and city.
“I don’t think we need more hotels and high-rise condos; they do not pull society’s weight,” he said. “Diversity and stability of neighborhoods is the social fabric that knits towns and cities together.”
Talbot Ross, Adams